By courtesy of Rock County Tax-Payers for a Better Renewable Energy Plan
Interview with Jim and Cheryl Congdon, Horicon Marsh Advocates, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. See transcript below (again, thanks to Better Plan).
Q: Would you say that the people who were making decisions on allowing this development to take place did they listen to the concerns of the local people are far as what the impacts would be, and set backs, and environmental concerns
Jim: I would say at the township level in particular, no.
Cheryl: By then the company was so embedded with t the township that there was no chance any more. We went to township meetings, to other townships.
Jim: The townships had to go through their legal– they had to do public hearings and all that because they’re required to but it was very obvious that the towns board had their decision pretty much all made up especially dodge county they listened to us because they had to and that was all. They very clearly had their decision all made before the public hearing even occurred.
Cheryl: And the town of Leroy, which is one of the main townships, the closest one to us. The town chairman would come to the county meetings when they were writing the ordinances for the meetings, she would attend those meetings with the wind company.
Jim: She sat right next to a representative of wind company and the wind company actually helped the county draft the ordinance.
Q. The wind company did.
Jim: The wind company did.
Q: What was the basis of their ordinance? What did they base their facts on? Was it base on some type of sound science or planning or–
Jim: Well, what we’ve learned since, no. The answer to that is no. At the time I have to say we were uninformed. I wouldn’t want to use the term ignorant we were uninformed.
Cheryl: You know how you say people aren’t watching their local government— we did. It’s just that no, you’re not watching every single committee meeting, but we’re very informed.
Jim: Wisconsin right now has a model energy ordinance that they recommend for the townships or counties to use. If remember right it has a 400 foot set back from roads and a thousand foot setback recommended from residences. What we have learned since is that ordinance– the model ordinance it’s not mandatory, but it’s a model ordinance– was actually written by lobbyists for the wind companies. They drafted this and it was just adopted by the state as: “This is the model you should be following”. And we do have a state statute that says that in effect, wildlife does not count. You can only base local ordinances on health and safety. That’s actually written in the statutes. So what we’ve learned since is that the model ordinance is written by lobbyists for the wind companies and has absolutely no science or legal basis for anything that’s in the ordinance. And this is what all of our state representatives, right up to the Governors office, are telling people.
This is the model that we should be using. So that was the basis for the local ordinances being adopted.
Q Could the local community have drafted their own ordinance?
Jim: What we’ve found out since is yes.
Cheryl: That’s what many are doing.
Jim: What we faced, at the time, in our particular case. We testified against what was being proposed at the county hearings. And the wind energy companies sat there with their attorneys and any time we suggested we should have something more restrictive, they would state that the law says you can only consider health and safety. We were threatened that if you do anything other than this model ordinance, you’ll be sued.
Q: Threatened by whom?
Jim: By the wind energy companies. We’ll take you to court and we will sue you if you don’t follow the model ordinance.
Cheryl: Because they would be at these public hearings.
Q: You said you testified before a committee. What were the areas you testified on?
Jim: Well. Personally, for myself– our organization, the Horicon Marsh Systems Advocate fought this project based primarily on wildlife concerns. At all of the hearings, my personal comments, yes I supported the wild life concerns but we always concerned both the aesthetic and health and safety. We didn’t feel what was being proposed was adequate from a health and safety standpoint. And we’re very much opposed to it on the aesthetic effect of putting these things all over the landscape. That was my personal comment, though we were being told that we could only consider health and safety.
Q: Were there any health and safety issues that were brought up that were considered?
Jim: At that time we didn’t have enough knowledge to effectively rebut.
Q: How about at this given time?
Jim: Since that time there has been a lot learned.
Q: Can you share with us what you’ve learned as far as health and safety is concerned?
Jim: Well I think what you heard today– from Gerry Meyer particularly, reflects what we’ve heard. There’s Dr. Pierpont out of New York, is doing a lot of research along these lines and what she says it there is substantial medical basis for concern about the effect of wind turbine noise. She has very thoroughly documented and researched the work she has done. And there have been a number of cases and the one I mentioned earlier in Kewanee County that the property owners won against the wind energy company. And there are other cases we’ve heard about, one in particular in Nova Scotia where a family just had to move out of their house because of the health effects it was having on them. There are more and more cases being documented that there are health effects from the sound.
Q: Now you said this was in the state law that the only consideration a local community can give in their decision-making is for health and safety.
Jim: There are townships now that are working on it– the good example of that is the Town of Union
Cheryl: And Trempealeau County has the strongest ordinance in our state now; they just passed it about a month and a half ago.
Jim: That’d be about right. They have done a lot of research and gotten into the literature. And they are coming up with what they consider substantial evidence that there are health effects from these turbines if they don’t have adequate setback. And I believe Trempealeau County is a one-mile, isn’t it?
I think what Town of Union is proposing is half mile setback from any residence. I believe Trempealeau County’s ordinance says one mile.
Cheryl: It’s definitely the strongest ordinance in the state at this time.
Jim: And they feel that they have adequate research information that if they are threatened with a lawsuit that they can defend themselves.
(CLICK HERE to visit the Horicon Marsh Systems Advocates website)
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